Former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy opens up about her eating disorder

 

Note: This essay contains discussions and images that may be triggering for some readers.

In support of the recent National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, I’m coming out about my history with disordered eating, which I’ve never publicly discussed before.

I’d thought about sharing my story a few times in the past. Once I was asked to write an article for The Wall Street Journal on beauty and body-shaming. Initially I toyed with calling the piece “I Threw Up Three Minutes Before I Wrote This” and opening up about life in the trenches of bulimia, but ultimately I decided against it. It felt too vulnerable to talk about something I was struggling with (not to mention that I had recently written an article about my mom’s battle with cancer and I was self-conscious about coming across as one big cry for help).

RELATED: See the star over the years

70 PHOTOS
Child star Jennette McCurdy over the years
See Gallery
Child star Jennette McCurdy over the years
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 16: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the premiere of 'Breaking Dawn' at the 2004 Hollywood Film Festival at Cinespace on October 16, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stephen Shugerman/Getty Images)
WILL & GRACE -- 'Von Trapped' Episode 10 -- Aired 01/05/2006 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jennette McCurdy as Oldest Girl, Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Megan Mullally as Karen Walker, Sean Hayes as Jack McFarland (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WILL & GRACE -- 'Von Trapped' Episode 10 -- Aired 01/05/2006 -- Pictured: (l-r) Jennette McCurdy as Oldest Girl, Debra Messing as Grace Adler, Gigi Goff as Littlest Girl (Photo by Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
UNIVERSAL CITY, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 06: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives to the 2007 Power of Youth Benefiting St. Jude and Presented by Tiger Electronics at the Globe Theater in Universal City, California on October 6, 2007. (Photo by Chris Polk/WireImage) *** Local Caption ***
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 13: Jennette McCurdy at the MTV Summer 2007 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 13, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Film Magic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JULY 13: Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Jerry Trainor and Dan Schneider at the MTV Summer 2007 TCA Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on July 13, 2007 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Film Magic)
Jennette McCurdy attends the 16th Annual Entertainment Industry Foundation's Revlon Run/Walk for Women on May 9, 2008 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Chris Weeks/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - DECEMBER 06: Actresses Sammi Hanratty and Jennette McCurdy attend the Holiday of Hope tree lighting at Hollywood & Highland on December 6, 2008 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Actress Jennette McCurdy (R) signs an autograph at the after party for 'Merry Christmas, Drake & Josh!' at the Westside Pavillion on December 2, 2008 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) SAN DIEGO - NOVEMBER 22: Jeanette McCurdy attends the Evening With The Stars at the W Hotel on November 22, 2008 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/WireImage)
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 11: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the 43rd Annual CMA Awards at the Sommet Center on November 11, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Taylor Hill/WireImage)
NASHVILLE, TN - OCTOBER 13: Singer David Archuleta and actress Jennette McCurdy attend the 'We're All For The Hall' benefit concert for the Country Music Hall of Fame at the Sommet Center on October 13, 2009 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Rick Diamond/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame)
HOLLYWOOD - SEPTEMBER 30: Jennette McCurdy attends the release party for the new album 'Kiss & Tell' by Selena Gomez and The Scene at Siren Studios on September 30, 2009 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Stefanie Keenan/WireImage)
Actress Jennette McCurdy poses in the press room at the 2009 Teen Choice Awards at the Gibson Amphitheatre on August 9, 2009 in Universal City, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Actress Jennette McCurdy in the BOP-IT! Celebrity Retreat produced by Backstage Creations at Gibson Amphitheatre on August 8, 2009 in Universal City, California.
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 20: Jennette McCurdy arrives at the American Idol Season 8 Finale held at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on May 20, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 9: Jennette McCurdy attends EIF/REVLON RUN WALK FOR WOMEN LOS ANGELES 2009 at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on May 9, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by DAVID CROTTY/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
May 9, 2009 Los Angeles, Ca.; Jennette McCurdy; 16th Annual EIF Revlon Run/Walk For Women; Held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 23: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at 2009 Prism Awards at the Beverly Hills Hotel on April 23, 2009 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Brian To/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 29: Jennette McCurdy at The 1st Annual T.J. Martell Family Day held at The Los Angeles Zoo on March 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Alexandra Wyman/WireImage)
©2009 credit NCNA only Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 22nd Annual Kids' Choice Awards on March 28, 2009 in Los Angeles. XYZ (Photo by Philip Ramey/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of 'Monsters vs. Aliens', held at Gibson Amphitheatre in Universal City. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
Actress Jennette McCurdy attends Backstage Creations celebrity retreat at the 2009 College Television Awards on March 21, 2009 in Culver City, California. (Photo by Mark Sullivan/WireImage)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 851 -- Pictured: Jennette McCurdy arrives on June 12, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 2010 American Country Awards held at MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 6, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
Jennette McCurdy attends the 2010 American Country Awards Backstage Creations Celebrity Retreat at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 5, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Jennette McCurdy attends 2010 American Music Awards - Arrivals at Nokia Theatre on November 21, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by ANDREAS BRANCH/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images)
Jennette McCurdy attends the Official AMA Backstage Boutique - Day 2 at LA Live on November 20, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/WireImage)
Jennette McCurdy attends 2010 American Music Awards pre-party charity bowl tournament at Lucky Strike Lanes at L.A. Live on November 20, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Brian To/FilmMagic)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 07: Jennette McCurdy arrives at Project Angel Food's 2011 Divine Design Gala at The Beverly Hilton hotel on December 7, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/WireImage)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - DECEMBER 07: Actresses Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande attend Project Angel Food's 2011 Divine Design Gala at The Beverly Hilton hotel on December 7, 2011 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: Actors Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress and guest ttend the Nickelodeon Rocks Your School event on November 16, 2011 in San Luis Obispo, California. (Photo by Maury Phillips/WireImage)
Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of 'In Time' held at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Actress Jennette McCurdy celebrates Nickelodeon's largest ever Worldwide Day of Play at the Ellipse on September 24, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 2011 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy�� Awards held at the Nokia Theater L.A. Live. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 11: Actress/singer Miranda Cosgrove (L) and actress Jennette McCurdy attend Miranda Cosgrove's 18th birthday party at Siren Studios on June 11, 2011 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/WireImage)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 04: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at Nickelodeon's exclusive premiere for the upcoming primetime TV event of the summer. 'iParty with Victorious,' Saturday, June 4, 2011 at The Lot in Los Angeles. 'iParty with Victorious' premieres Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) and stars the casts of Nickelodeon's hit series iCarly and Victorious. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 03: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 46th Annual Academy Of Country Music Awards at MGM Grand on April 3, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 02: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at Nickelodeon's 24th Annual Kids' Choice Awards at Galen Center on April 2, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Larry Busacca/KCA2011/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
Jennette McCurdy arrives at the Los Angeles premiere of 'Rango' held at Regency Village Theatre on February 14, 2011 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
WEST PALM BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 12: (EXCLUSIVE ACCESS) Jenette McCurdy, Capitol Records Nashville recording artist and star of Nickelodeon's iCarly, poses backstage at Cruzan Amphitheatre on February 12, 2011 in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Photo by Larry Marano/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 22: Jennette McCurdy attends the 86th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 22, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Jennette McCurdy performs during day two of the 86th Anniversary Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Rehearsals at Macy's Herald Square on November 20, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 09: Actress/recording artist Jennette McCurdy arrives at the Las Vegas premiere of 'Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil' at the Aria Resort & Casino at CityCenter on November 9, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Steven Lawton/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Jennette McCurdy and Miranda Cosgrove arrive at the 2012 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 15, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at Nickelodeon's 25th Annual Kids' Choice Awards held at the Galen Center. (Photo by Frank Trapper/Corbis via Getty Images)
SANTA MONICA, CA - FEBRUARY 18: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the 2nd annual Cartoon Network Hall Of Game Awards at The Barker Hanger on February 18, 2012 in Santa Monica, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends 2013 American Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 24, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/AMA2013/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 2013 TeenNick HALO Awards at the Hollywood Palladium on November 17, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 2013 TeenNick HALO Awards at Hollywood Palladium on November 17, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 17: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 5th Annual TeenNick HALO Awards at Hollywood Palladium on November 17, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Mark Davis/Getty Images for Nickelodeon)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22: Jennette McCurdy arrives at the Dahlia Wolf launch party held at Graffiti Cafe on October 22, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 13: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends The Los Angeles Drama Club's 2nd Annual 'Tempest In A Teacup' Gala Fundraiser And Benefit Performance at The Magic Castle on October 13, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 27: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the 2013 Teen Vogue Young Hollywood Awards on September 27, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - SEPTEMBER 19: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the People StyleWatch Denim party at Palihouse on September 19, 2013 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 15: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the 2013 Creative Arts Emmy Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on September 15, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 18: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the People StyleWatch 4th Annual Denim Awards Issue party at The Line on September 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amanda Edwards/WireImage)
CENTURY CITY, CA - SEPTEMBER 17: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends SPLASH, an Exclusive Media Event by Live Love Spa at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on September 17, 2014 in Century City, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images for Live Love Spa)
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 05: Jennette McCurdy attends The Art of Elysium's 6th Annual GENESIS at The Theatre at Ace Hotel Downtown LA on September 5, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Amy Graves/Getty Images for The Art of Elysium)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 20: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends Marc By Marc Jacobs Fall/Winter 2014 Preview at Marc Jacobs on June 20, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 19: Actress Jeannette McCurdy attends the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival closing night premiere of 'Jersey Boys' at Premiere House on June 19, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Barry King/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - MAY 08: Jennette McCurdy attends the Nylon Magazine May young Hollywood issue party at Tropicana Bar at The Hollywood Rooselvelt Hotel on May 8, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
VERNON, CA - APRIL 29: Actress Jennette McCurdy attending BCBG Max Azria's Grand Opening Event 'Living The Bon Chic Life' a retrospective exhibition at BCBG Max Azria Group Corporate Headquarters on April 29, 2014 in Vernon, California. (Photo by Paul Redmond/WireImage)
BURBANK, CA - APRIL 26: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the Lollipop Theater Network's A Night Under The Stars at Nickelodeon Animation Studio on April 26, 2014 in Burbank, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
WESTWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 21: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of Focus Features' 'The Danish Girl' at Westwood Village Theatre on November 21, 2015 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - OCTOBER 22: Jennette McCurdy attends Star Magazine's Scene Stealers party at W Hollywood on October 22, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Tibrina Hobson/Getty Images)
WESTWOOD, CA - DECEMBER 14: Actress Jennette McCurdy arrives at the premiere of Columbia Pictures' 'Passengers' at Regency Village Theatre on December 14, 2016 in Westwood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
LOS ANGELES, CA - AUGUST 08: Jennette McCurdy arrives at the Variety Power Of Young Hollywood at TAO Hollywood on August 8, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Steve Granitz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 01: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends the Premiere Of Open Road Films' 'Before I Fall' at the Directors Guild Of America on March 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Greg Doherty/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - JUNE 13: Actress Jennette McCurdy attends Magnolia Pictures' 'Damsel' Premiere at ArcLight Hollywood on June 13, 2018 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)
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But now I’ve been in recovery maintenance for two years. I’m no longer actively engaging in disordered eating. After spending a lot of time in therapy working on myself and confronting what I’ve experienced, I finally feel like I have the perspective required to write about what I’ve been through and maybe ― hopefully ― it might help someone who is going through the same thing feel less alone. (Plus, it’s been a good few years since mom died, so my quota for trauma sharing is ready to be refilled.)

My disordered eating started when I was 11. As a child actress working in Hollywood, I quickly learned that remaining physically small for my age meant I had a better chance of booking more roles. Unfortunately, I had a trusty and dedicated companion ready to help me with my burgeoning anorexia: my mom!

Me, my mom and my brother in 2004 having dinner at a restaurant where you could meet Disney characters. Our trips to Disney were always so complicated for me. I loved Disney and wanted to be able to just enjoy it, but instead I’d spend the days leading up to the trip looking up the menu, planning exactly what I would eat, calculating the calories I’d consume, and starving myself as much as possible to “save room” for the “big meal” ― at which I’d wind up restricting myself anyway. At least I always got a hug from Baloo!

I don’t hold this against my mom at all. I don’t think she could help it. Mom had been hospitalized for anorexia on several occasions when she was a teenager and I’m not convinced she ever overcame her disordered eating. When I was growing up, the only dinner I ever saw her eat was a plate of steamed broccoli and cauliflower with a single pinch of garlic salt for flavor.

I always remember feeling that my mom really struggled with my body, weight and diet. She’d regularly compare my size to that of other girls. She’d portion out my meals for me. She’d help me count calories.

At the time, instead of being bothered by her suggestions, I remember thinking that she was actually helping me ― that she “got it” more than the other moms ― and that she wanted me to be successful.

“Are you sure you want ice cream? You’ve already had 900 calories today,” she’d remind me as I yanked open the freezer door. I’d pause, rethinking my decision, and then I’d lose my grip on the door and let it shut slowly as a wistful expression crossed my face. That’s mom, always looking out for me.

RELATED: Nickelodeon in the 90s

23 PHOTOS
Nickelodeon in the 1990s
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Nickelodeon in the 1990s
Actress Anna Chlumsky and Actor Austin O'Brien attend the Seventh Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on May 7, 1994 at Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Actress Drew Barrymore attends the 11th Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on April 4, 1998 at the Pauley Pavilion, UCLA in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - MAY 7: Actress Tatyana Ali attends the Seventh Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on May 7, 1994 at Pantages Theatre in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd/WireImage)
Macaulay Culkin during Nickelodeon and Macaulay Culkin on the set of Richie Rich in Los Angeles, CA, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Jonathan Lipnicki during Nickelodeon's 10th Annual Kid's Choice Awards at The Grand Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
SECAUCUS, NJ - 1991: Earvin 'Magic' Johnson of the Los Angeles Lakers guest stars on a Nickelodeon Television special circa 1991 in Secaucus, New Jersey. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1991 NBAE (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Actors Taran Noah Smith, Zachery Ty Bryan, and Jonathan Taylor Thomas attend the Fifth Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on November 14, 1992 at Star Trek Theatre in Universal City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Jodie Sweetin and Michael Fishman during 1992 Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards at Star Treck Theatre in Universal City, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
Andrew Lawrence during 7th Annual Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards at Pantages Theater in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
404656 01: Actor Donovan Patton Appears With Blue, His Animated Co-Star On The Set Of Nickelodeon's 'Blue's Clues,' In This Computer-Generated Composite Publicity Image. Donovan Is Replacing Steve Burns, The Show's Host Since The Children's Show Debuted In December 1996. (Photo By Getty Images)
Jonathan Taylor Thomas during 1996 Nickelodeon Big Help at Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Whoopi Goldberg during 1996 Nickelodeon Big Help at Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Model Cindy Crawford attends the 10th Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on April 19, 1997 at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
R & B Group IMx attends 10th Annual Nickelodeon Kid's Choice Awards on April 9, 1997 at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)
John Leguizamo and Kenan Thompson during MTV Nickelodeon's John Leguizamo in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
John Leguizamo during MTV Nickelodeon's John Leguizamo in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
Fran Drescher during 10th Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Michelle Trachtenberg during Nickelodeon's 10th Annual Kids Choice Awards at Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)
Mya during Nickelodeon's 1998 Big Help in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)
WESTWOOD,CA - APRIL 4: Actor Jonathan Taylor Thomas attends the 11th Annual Nickelodeon's Kids' Choice Awards on April 4, 1998 at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd/WireImage)
Madonna during The 11th Annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards at UCLA Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)
Rosie O'Donnell during The 11th Annual Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards at UCLA Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Katie Holmes at the UCLA Pauley Pavilion in Westwood, California (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
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I didn’t really recognize that my mom was aiding in my disordered eating until one night riding home from dance class when I was 12. She turned around to face me from the front seat and said, “Angelica’s mom is really concerned about your weight. She said she brought it up to the other dance moms and they’re all worried you’re too thin. They’re thinking about calling to get you help.”

She paused. I processed.

“If anybody asks, just tell them you’re eating normally,” she directed.

Me with my childhood friends Danielle Chuchran, Dylan Meyer, Megan, Tessa, and Caitlin Meyer at the Young Artist Awards in 2003. I was 12 and really struggling with anorexia, so any sort of social eating like at this luncheon was genuinely my nightmare. The woman sitting next to me at our table noticed I was fiddling with my roll instead of eating it and commented loudly, “You haven’t eaten a thing!” I seethed with anger that this woman almost blew my cover as a closeted anorexic.

I nodded numbly, piecing it all together as mom turned back around and made some comment to herself about how she really hoped we made it home in time for the new episode of “House” and how Hugh Laurie was a great actor and you just would never know he’s British.

In retrospect, that moment alone should have been alarming enough to make me question mom’s support. But even if I had wanted to stop at that point, I don’t think I could have. I was already too controlled by my eating disorder to see clearly what was happening to me. Plus, being small was doing wonders for my career. I booked six roles that year, all for characters several years younger than I was. I made justifications for my mom’s support of my disordered eating and I made justifications for my continuing down the road I was traveling.

At 14, I was cast in the Nickelodeon series “iCarly,” and by the time I was 15, the show was starting to get popular. The stress of having to be “on” all the time got to me. I became even more fixated on food and my body. I monitored every bite I took. I exercised obsessively. I measured my thighs with a measuring tape every night before bed.

When I was 18, my mom was diagnosed with cancer for a second time and this time it was terminal. “iCarly” had become a global phenomenon, I had a record deal with a fancy record label, mom was dying, and I just couldn’t handle the pressures of everything happening around me. But this time, instead of turning away from food, I turned to food. Lots and lots of food.

And so began my binge eating phase. I still tracked, calculated and obsessed about every single thing that went into my mouth, just the same as when I had anorexia. The only difference was that I was eating a lot more. I was constantly preoccupied with food. Nothing meant more to me than my next bite and nothing gave me more shame than my last one. I was in a toxic, self-loathing cycle.

By the time I was 21, I had just signed a deal for a spin-off series starring my character from “iCarly,” I was dating an NBA player, and mom was weeks away from dying. I had also become acutely aware that I was a role model for kids, which I felt like I was supposed to find cool but actually found upsetting. My great “contribution” to society was walking onto an overlit Nickelodeon set shouting lines about fried chicken (my character liked fried chicken) and that’s what kids were looking up to? Granted, we can’t all be Pema Chodron, but there was something about the shallowness of my success that made me resent it. That resentment festered, providing even more fuel for my disordered eating. I actively began to engage in anorexic behavior again.

But this time it was a bit different. Every day I’d try not to eat ― I’d give it my best shot, I really would ― but eventually, my mind and body would cave in and demand food. I would eat ... and then I would throw up what I ate.

They say when one door closes, another one opens, and that was certainly the case for me when it came to disordered eating. Goodbye, anorexia; hello, bulimia!

When I first began to vomit after eating, I was honestly thrilled. Are you kidding me? I could eat whatever I wanted and then throw it right back up and avoid the consequences of eating (aka gaining weight)? It was the best of both worlds!

Plus, my disordered eating was reinforced wherever I went and by whomever I saw. I’d lose weight and go to a wardrobe fitting where the stylist would look at me excitedly, wag a pair of double 0 jeans, and happily singsong, “Down a size!”

Or I’d get a phone call from my agent, who would say, “You’ve never looked better. Keep doing what you’re doing.” Thanks, Steve ― little do you know that at this very moment you’re muted while I throw up my spicy tuna roll.

Or I’d be walking across the soundstage lot on my way to a table read and a producer would roll down his BMW window and tell me to “keep it up!” I’d flash my pearly whites (or ― more accurately ― slightly-stained-from-the-stomach-acid whites) and feel proud.

My disordered eating was reinforced wherever I went and by whomever I saw. I’d lose weight and go to a wardrobe fitting where the stylist would look at me excitedly, wag a pair of double 0 jeans, and happily singsong, ‘Down a size!’

Another thing I soon learned about eating disorders in Hollywood was that they can be highly competitive. Highly. Competitive. I encountered countless famous actresses, singers and entertainment personalities with eating disorders and found out there was a kind of “disordered eating hierarchy” in young Hollywood, with anorexia reigning over bulimia.

I’d show up at red carpet events and feel like I was getting side-eyed by girls I knew to be anorexic. They’d look at me with what I believed to be pity and I’d look back at them with admiration. In my mind, they were so poised, so full of control, so disciplined. And there I was, puffy-cheeked and swollen-knuckled from all my purging. I was unable to not eat and unable to keep down what I ate.

I started to feel ashamed that I wasn’t good enough at disordered eating. I’d analyze my bulimia and feel terrible. I told myself that if I were better at this, if I were truly committed, I would just be able to not eat. I was convinced that bulimia was nothing more than poor man’s anorexia. What kind of hack was I?

Inevitably, the shame snowballed and so did the bulimia. Before I knew it, I was having five, six or seven purging sessions a day. By definition of the disorder, I was truly succeeding. And yet my bulimia always felt like a failure ― like I was coming up short of what a true disordered eater could (and should) accomplish.

Me at the Creative Emmy Awards in 2013. It’s scary to me how easy it was to cover up what was really going on. If you throw on a nice outfit and smile big for the cameras, they’ll never know! I really want to help change this by encouraging people struggling with disordered eating to speak openly and honestly about it.

This hellish bulimic spiral continued for three more years. And during those years ― plus the 10 years before when I was wrapped up in other forms of disordered eating ― not one person in the entertainment industry confronted me about it. Maybe my destructive behavior was obvious to everyone around me, but if they were all monetizing the situation ― and essentially me ― then what incentive did they have to try to change it or help me?

The one person who did ultimately confront me was my sister-in-law. I was living in Toronto while shooting the Netflix show “Between,” and she and my brother came to visit me for Thanksgiving. We went out to a nice restaurant where I ate lots of turkey and stuffing and cranberry sauce ... and then I made my way to the bathroom. I purged and purged and purged, celebrating the Pilgrims’ first harvest in the New World the way I knew best. Then I swung open the bathroom door and came face to face with my sister-in-law.

“You need help,” she told me. And I knew she was right. I felt a strange combination of terrified and relieved ― terrified that someone knew my secret and I would have to face my disordered eating, and relieved that maybe now I would finally get better.

Once I got back to Los Angeles from Canada, I met a therapist named Laura whom I really liked. Laura was a spiritual type who hugged me at the end of every session. She had long auburn hair and wore prairie skirts and used the word “beautiful” a lot ― often after I’d said things that were not even remotely beautiful (which was confusing to me until I realized that she used “beautiful” in spaces where most therapists would say, “I understand”).

I met with Laura three times a week for sessions and she attended particularly stressful industry events with me, since those events were often huge triggers for my bulimia. (Stress + crostini hors d’oeuvres = a bulimic spiral waiting to happen.)

This photo was taken right around the time my mom passed away. I was really struggling with disordered eating and had just dipped my toe in the waters of bulimia. I was absolutely terrified of gaining weight and I would take a photo of myself every morning to compare it to a photo of myself from the day before.

Laura was my plus-one to the 2015 Kids’ Choice Awards. Nick Jonas called me to the stage, I locked eyes with a clapping Angelina Jolie, and I got through my lines. Then I walked backstage to meet up with Laura, who was trying to be discreet about taking a picture of Adam Sandler (she wasn’t very familiar with his films but loved “The Chanukah Song”). She beamed at me as I scarfed down a few sliders. Then she quickly sensed my inner turmoil. We rushed to the backseat of an Uber XL where I began sobbing as Laura made sure that I didn’t throw up. The Uber driver was very confused as I repeatedly wailed, “The sliiiiiiiders!”

Around that time, Laura told me she thought I needed a higher level of care and suggested an inpatient treatment facility in Colorado. And that was when I quit seeing Laura. I told myself I was tired of her spiritual approach, but in retrospect I think it might’ve had more to do with the fact that I wasn’t ready to get better. I wasn’t ready to let go of my disordered eating.

Over the next year and a half, I continued to purge even as I also began to face various come-to-Jesus moments. My throat frequently bled and I popped blood vessels in my eyes from vomiting so much. Once I lost a tooth after regurgitated stomach fluids wore down my enamel. Another time I passed out on my friend’s bathroom floor from dehydration. Finally, I decided it was time to seek help again.

At 23, I was back in Canada working on the second season of “Between” and it felt like the right time to go back into treatment. I met a whip-smart eating disorder specialist, Hank, who used a combination of cognitive behavioral, dialectical behavioral and schema-based therapies.

Hank was not spiritual and did not hug. He dressed impeccably and his hair was perfectly combed. He weighed me at the beginning of each session and gave me homework at the end. He consistently challenged me and urged me to challenge him. When I said something that wasn’t logical, he’d say, “That’s your eating disorder voice.”

I began to face various come-to-Jesus moments. My throat frequently bled and I popped blood vessels in my eyes from vomiting so much. Once I lost a tooth when I passed out on my friend’s bathroom floor from dehydration. Finally, I decided it was time to seek help again.

Identifying my eating disorder voice was the most pivotal aspect of my recovery. I had to learn to understand this thing in and out. I had to recognize that this part of my mind, this eating disorder voice, was not healthy and was not going away. So if I wanted to get better, I’d have to call out my eating disorder voice every single time it popped up. I’d have to confront my urges to obsess or indulge in disordered eating behaviors (which arose hundreds of times every day), work to avoid or correct them, and act based on my recently adopted healthy mindset instead.

Recovery was brutal. It felt like breaking up with a bad boyfriend whom I loved even though I knew I shouldn’t. He treated me poorly, he ruined my life, he consistently devastated me, and yet, without him, who was I really?

Since so much of my identity had been built around the framework of disordered eating, I literally had to relearn how to think in order to rebuild my identity, which was as painstaking and uncomfortable as it sounds. I thought recovery was about walking along white sand beaches with a soft smile while wearing crepe pants ― not sobbing for half-days at a time or falling into a dark hole of depression because suddenly the thing that determined the largest part of who I was for 13 years was now gone.

I had several relapses during my time with Hank and several more even after I finished the program, but Hank warned me about relapses and told me they were totally normal. The important thing was getting back on the recovery program anytime I had a slip so that, as they say in recovery, “the slip doesn’t become a slide.”

Me in 2019.

And so far, the slips haven’t become slides. Anytime I’ve had a slip, I’ve gotten back on my program. It’s been two years and I’m doing well, recovering and moving forward. I still get eating disorder urges, compulsions and occasional fantasies. I still hear that old eating disorder voice, but luckily I hear it less and less often. And when I do hear it, I now have the tools to muffle it. So, thankfully, I can now open up about my disordered eating without titling this piece “I Threw Up Three Minutes Before I Wrote This.”

Jennette McCurdy grew up acting and had leading roles on shows like Netflix’s “Between” and Nickelodeon’s “iCarly.” Not totally satisfied with the work she did as an actress and wanting to take charge of her own creative narrative, McCurdy began writing and directing her own projects in 2017. Her first short film, “Kenny,” was featured on Short of the Week and in The Hollywood Reporter, and is an official selection for the 2019 Florida Film Festival, where it’s nominated for the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film. McCurdy’s newest short film, “Strong Independent Women,” is about a mother who puts all her energy into helping her daughter overcome an eating disorder. For more about McCurdy, visit her official website, Instagram and Twitter accounts.

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If you’re struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorder Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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